Will a life of adventure and unique experiences help or hurt my app?

Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Hello, I am a 34-year-old nontraditional student who is currently working to apply to research PhD programs this fall, for 2011 enrollment. I enrolled in a MFT track MA program (at a professional school) this past fall and have really found that I am much more interested in research, writing, and teaching than I am in being a therapist. The problem is that I am really unsure as to how I will look to admissions committees at PhD programs.

Stats: GED, CC from 1993-2000 honors with 3.6GPA, State university 2004-2008 graduated summa cum laude from the honor's college with a 3.81 GPA and BA in interdisciplinary studies (creative writing and photography) took a break to stay experience being a stay at home mom with my new child from may '08 until october of '09. My Honor's thesis project was creation of a poetry class in the county jail with full 6-week curriculum and a lit review of research showing the efficacy of creative arts programs in reducing recidivism. During my undergrad I was published heavily in our university literary journals (peer-reviewed) and newspaper, won several writing awards and competitions, and was accepted into 2 juried art shows for my photography. I am currently starting my 3rd quarter of MA, have a 3.92 GPA, am working on 2 lines of research under mentorship from the sole research guy in the program, and have no other research experience to speak of. my practice GRE, with no prep at all, was 710v and 500q so I anticipate being able to raise the scores quite a bit (at least the q) before I have to take the gre in october or november. I will also take the GRE psychology subject test.

So I guess that my stats are not exceptional and in some ways might be a bit low, but I wonder if my fairly adventurous and interesting path and experiences might be looked on favorably by the admissionss committee. Some of the more unique things I have done include driving a taxi, in top-murder city of St. Louis, for two years, a vow of ascetism and celibacy for 3 years (as an experiment) to see if it would affect my artistic output as much as many historically great artists have claimed (it did but the cost, in terms of social grace and dating skills, was greater than the return), and have been a freelance (hobbyist-professional) fashion photographer since 2000.

My biggest hobby and driving passion is researching to learn about whatever my present questions require and I am looking forward to using my PhD to live a wonderful life of finding and answering questions, teaching and mentoring fascinating students, and writing works for both the academic world and for those outside of the ivory tower.

Do you think that my eclectic background is more likely to help or hurt me? How much, if at all, should I talk about what I've experienced and learned from my various adventures? And do you think it is possible for me to be an attractive candidate for a competitive program, with my stats, for the fall app cycle? I will be applying to Stanford, Berkeley, and UC-Santa Cruz, if that helps.
 
Last edited:

Ollie123

10+ Year Member
Feb 19, 2007
4,727
1,199
281
Status
Psychology Student
Arts background could help, writing background probably will help, but neither will hurt in and of itself. Taxi driving and vow of celibacy are pretty irrelevant.

You haven't really described any psychology experience though. The background in other things is fine, but they are going to want to see psychology experience too. After all, if you don't really know what the field involves and have ANY appearanc of being "scattered" why would they think you'll finish the program? Even from what you said "Researching to learn whatever my present questions require", which doesn't answer the question of why psychology, and I think would actually look bad in a personal statement since it would raise the question of "Will it still be psychology 5 years from now?".

You are applying to 3 good schools, 2 of which are among the best in the world, whereas most people with great stats and great psychology experience apply to 10-15. Your background would make you "stand out" during interviews and that is a good thing. However, you need to get the requisite experience before you are likely to be a viable candidate. I'm not sure if the MA has done that or not, it really depends how kickass those research projects are. Either way, I suspect the fact that it is a clinically-based degree from a professional school would probably be frowned upon at those schools.

So in conclusion, its hard to say. If you have all your ducks in a row then I do think an eclectic background helps. If you do not, I think it is pretty unlikely to "Get you in" by itself. Right now I can't tell which group you fall in, because I have no idea how intensive that research experience is. You could be replicating a study that has already been done 1000 times by passing out paper to undergrads, and relying on your mentor to do all the hard stuff, or you could be running an fMRI yourself and analyzing data in matlab with only minimal supervision. There is a world of difference there:)
 
Jan 29, 2010
111
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Ollie made some pretty good points. Here are some of what came to mind when I read your post...

My life experiences have been eclectic as well and not as indicative of a commitment to psychology as others might have been when I was applying to internship. While others may have dedicated most of their time in research/clinical work, I was heavily involved in other volunteer activities in addition to my grad school work and practicum. In my personal essay, my advisor pointed out that having a unique background is favorable as long as you can 'sell' it as a coherent package in terms of how all those experiences reinforced your interest in psychology. Otherwise, it may seem like you're kind of flighty and people may wonder if your current commitment to psychology will just end up being like one of the other things you tried in the past.

Hope this makes sense. I would say your personal essay (if you have to write one) would be the chance to present how your past has strengthened your interest in psychology. If you can't do that, then actually your diverse experiences could end up hurting you. But like Ollie said, you still need some solid background in psychology (research especially) to be a competitive applicant.
 
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Thanks for your response. I guess I could have been a bit more clear about my questions here :)

The first thing is that, due to my partner's job and having a young child, I am tied to a pretty small geographic area. I will likely apply to at least one PsyD as well but am reluctant to pursue a Phd or Psyd at a less than respected school. I am currently enrolled at, but do not foresee completing, a MFT track Master's program so I will be applying as a BA applicant with around 30 graduate credits. I will not be completing the program since I do not believe that it has the curriculum or prestige to adequately prepare me for a good PhD program but I will be taking a few more classes, including independent research study, in order to augment my psychology background and help me gain formal research education etc..

When I began this program I knew that it was possible I would not be well-suited to becoming a clinician but, not knowing much about the PhD process and selectivity, assumed that the best way to find out would be to join a program that quickly focused on the clinical aspects of psychology. I have found that I am not bad at clinical work but it is something that I don't think I could do more than 5-10 hours a week (it's mentally taxing and emotionally difficult work).

On the other hand, I have discovered that my true passion lies in research; in particular, theory generation and development... I can think of nothing more beautiful than discovering a new question or elegant solution and then finding out how to develop that idea into something useful. To me it is a logical extension of my creative drive; using the mental playfulness of visual arts and the formal elements of the craft of writing in order to develop, in myself, a more mature creative process to pursue my research goals.

From a practical point of view, I am well aware that the schools I will be applying to are among the most competitive in the world and that I will have a very high bar to meet in order to be seriously considered as an applicant. I imagine that the admissions committee faces an impressive stack of applications every cycle and I guess my biggest question is, knowing my trajectory is not the traditional way of arriving at a PhD program's doorstep (so I will likely stand out in some way), do you think that my unconventional and often unusual path can be an asset in my application?

I can see your concern about my lack of psychology focus in my original post. I don't know if I have any relevant research experience at this moment, or not, and I am having a tough time discerning what counts as research experience. My honor's thesis included a fairly extensive review of literature (mostly journal articles) about how creative arts classes compare to other approaches in reducing recidivism among jail and prison populations. My basic thesis premise was that creative writing programs teach coping skills which allow offenders positive means of dealing with charged emotions and experiences and therefore reduce their dependency on the maladaptive behaviors they may have used in the past.

Regarding the relevance of taxi driving and other not-formally-psychology experiences, I guess I see them as very relevant to where I am coming from as a student and researcher. I wonder if an admissions committee might consider the eclectic path I've taken as a positive quality, adding intellectual diversity, or if I should try to minimize focus on where I've come from because they are more likely to see my journey as indicative of a lack of focus or stability.

In my subjective view, of course, this journey has given me a point of view and inner strength that will help me persevere through the hard parts of a PhD program and life. I see my story as the inspirational journey of a broken and battered child from the helplessness and despair of growing up in abuse and neglect to the becoming of a strong, happy, and personally-powerful woman who has chosen to create a life of beauty and meaning from her experiences and innate potential as a human being. I realize that the objective view of my journey might not be quite so forgiving or favorable :)

I guess you could say that I hope my program will also see my story as an inspiring one and believe, like me, that being a student and scientist of psychology can be much more than one's classes and formal education experiences.

I see my writing as a life-long obsession with understanding how the human mind works and most of my various adventures as field work in the human experience. Driving a taxi was an interesting, and I think psychology-related experience, because 1) your life truly depends on being able to accurately assess the mental state, stability, and affect of every person who enters your cab, and 2) I found it quite interesting to observe that, as a young white woman with a good vocabulary, my experiences and treatment by customers was radically different from the norm, as observed and reported. I think both of these factors, among others, raise some fascinating questions that I love to think about and research: does perception of danger increase one's ability to identify and classify details? Does it matter if the available details are directly related to the perceived danger? Do people learn some things more easily in potentially dangerous situations? How does class, race, gender, and ethnicity impact people's safety in dangerous jobs? Did my being a young, educated, white woman keep me safe? If so, was it because it was so surprising to see a young, white, female cabbie? Was it due to socio-cultural conditioning and beliefs related to the value and/or proper treatment of my "type" of person? Was it maybe because of the perceived risk of harming me versus a different type of cab driver?

I see my experiences as giving me a lot of interesting lines of research to consider an be inspired by. My current research project is directly related to what I observed among the models I have photographed as a fashion photographer and is inspired by the thing that has kept me from considering the fashion industry as a profession-- fashion is often an ugly world and I'd like to explore how the absolute appearance focus on these young models might affect their psychological development and stability as they get older.

To wrap up here, I wonder how to best focus my application in order to maximize my desirability as an applicant. If I can get my stats to meet the standards of these schools, is it likely that admissions committees will be intrigued by my colorful path or put off? And how might you suggest I can increase the likelihood of it being a good thing?
 
Last edited:
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Current research projects:
1. I am working on a study (survey) to identify the impact of attractiveness/appearance focus on breadth and depth of identity development in women.
2. I am formulating a theoretical paper outlining a systems view of identity as a clinical approach to assessing and conceptualizing treatment for persons who exhibit lack of well-rounded identity development in adulthood-- specifically related to exceptionality and addiction.

Both of these projects are based on ideas I brought to my advisor and are being conducted independently, with his advisement, as I am not affiliated with a research program. I hope they will result in publication or presentation at a conference.
 
Jan 14, 2010
149
0
0
USA
Status
Psychology Student
You bring up a *lot* of points and these are things that stuck out to me:

What are relevant research experiences?
In my opinion this includes thesis studies that are *not* just literature reviews. This means designing an experimental or observational study in which you collect data, analyze and interpret the results, etc. Other relevant research experience includes work as an undergraduate or full-time RA in which you do not just data-entry but are involved in more levels of research (from IRB related tasks to running participants to publications and poster presentations).

I don't think your background is a draw back - but I also don't think it's the asset you think it will be. In the personal statement everyone will write about *why* they want to be a psychologist. This is where you will mention how your life experiences have brought you to this point... but so will everyone else. Yours might be more interesting and catch someone's attention but remember you're going to have 500 words to a maximum of usually 1000 to address a lot of other questions in your personal statement (i.e., research interests, research experiences, etc.) and can't necessarily go on about your life story. [Note: Along these lines, you also want to be careful about disclosing too much in your personal statement (i.e., you need to balance it carefully)]. Someone may or may not ask you about your background at interviews (making for interesting discussion etc)., but you first have to get an interview (which means that you will have to rely on GRE scores, GPA, and research experience, i.e., some 'objective things', to make it past a cut-off instead).

I agree your life experiences have given you interesting research questions - but you have to be careful. You can seem unfocused. What helped me with my applications is that I have a very focused line of research questions and applied to professors that do that specific research. You need to come up with a focused umbrella question that can logically and comfortably fit your research interests. Even if you're interested in research, it can work against you to be interested in too many things.

For example, here you have research questions about a) how people assess dangerous situations and b) perceptions and impacts of cultural and institutional definitions of beauty... these are very different things... what professor are you going to apply to that does both? Maybe you can find an umbrella question that fits them both (i.e., perceptions of others?) but that's really wide and can work against you. Right or not, it seems the trend that specialized interests are expected, and, although most POIs don't expect you to match them perfectly, they don't expect you to be all over the place. Someone who says they want to research "emotion" may think they can fit a wider net but will probably have a harder time getting a bite from a professor because 1) they will be competing against more applicants in this wider net and 2) if the POI does research let's say on depression in adolescents (i.e., "emotions") he will probably prefer an applicant who has aligned and specific interests and ideas to advance that specific line of research. Yeah, you can apply to different professors who are looking at entirely different things, but then you are tailoring your personal statements to two very different research areas... and some POIs will ask you where else you applied to and to whom, which can tip them off to your 'lack of focus'.

Anyway that was a mouth full, and maybe if not always true, it was sure my experience and most of my co-workers.
So I think you can make your background a positive thing, but I don't think it will give you a leg up over other applicants necessarily. I think you have interesting research questions, but I also think you need to be careful about focusing them when you apply - this way your life experiences will be in line with 'why' and 'what' you want to research, but not reinforce any notions of 'unfocused' traits.

Hope that makes sense.
 
Last edited:
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Thanks, that is very helpful in clarifying research experience and also how tightly I should focus my research direction in my application. It is also helpful to know a bit more about how much bearing these factors will have on my initial chances of getting an interview with a program.

The Psychology Phd application process is quite a lot different from the English and Creative writing graduate programs, it seems, and it is helpful to have a better idea of what I need to do to be competitive for program placement.

So the perception questions I mentioned as stemming from taxi driving were mostly to illustrate how I feel that experience has led me and prepared me for becoming a psychological scientist-- re. interesting possibilities for future research. I think that for Stanford and Berkeley I will focus on my research interests with regard to identity development and issues among people who are narrowly self-defined due to exceptionality IE: beautiful women and "geniuses." I have found several interesting professers who seemm to fit with this line of research both places.

For the Santa Cruz program I will likely develop a more socially focused research interest, perhaps dealing with how people can best transition from incarceration and/or institutionalization back into their community. I am particularly interested in how mothers who are exiting the penal system can successfully manage recovery from the stress and trauma (themselves and children) of separation and interruption of attachment processes... or something like that.

Thanks again and I appreciate all of the wonderful input!

PS: I know I seem to have a lot of disparate interests, and I'll admit I do, but this is why I am so excited about psychology as a career; I will never run out of questions or feel like I know "enough" :)
 

jnine

5+ Year Member
Dec 17, 2009
192
0
91
Status
Psychology Student
Thanks, that is very helpful in clarifying research experience and also how tightly I should focus my research direction in my application. It is also helpful to know a bit more about how much bearing these factors will have on my initial chances of getting an interview with a program.

The Psychology Phd application process is quite a lot different from the English and Creative writing graduate programs, it seems, and it is helpful to have a better idea of what I need to do to be competitive for program placement.

So the perception questions I mentioned as stemming from taxi driving were mostly to illustrate how I feel that experience has led me and prepared me for becoming a psychological scientist-- re. interesting possibilities for future research. I think that for Stanford and Berkeley I will focus on my research interests with regard to identity development and issues among people who are narrowly self-defined due to exceptionality IE: beautiful women and "geniuses." I have found several interesting professers who seemm to fit with this line of research both places.

For the Santa Cruz program I will likely develop a more socially focused research interest, perhaps dealing with how people can best transition from incarceration and/or institutionalization back into their community. I am particularly interested in how mothers who are exiting the penal system can successfully manage recovery from the stress and trauma (themselves and children) of separation and interruption of attachment processes... or something like that.

Thanks again and I appreciate all of the wonderful input!

PS: I know I seem to have a lot of disparate interests, and I'll admit I do, but this is why I am so excited about psychology as a career; I will never run out of questions or feel like I know "enough" :)
im glad to hear you're checking out professors for matching interests. just to reiterate - when you apply/write the professors make sure to explicitly articulate how your interests align with professors'. also, cogently relate your diverse expereinces to your current interests and future goals. i think these are things prof's look for.

i also think you're grasped that clinical psychology programs tend to be so competetive that many "ideal on paper" applicants vie for each slot in a program. faculty generally have several, if not dozens of, people to choose from who apply with great stats and expereince studying their area of interest.

my perception and (limited) experience is that outside of clinical psychology faculty embrace diverse backgrounds a bit more. i think that in social psych programs your life experiences will be valued a great deal. of course it will be idiosynchratic with respect to individual faculty memebrs regardless of what kind of program you apply to.

id thus advise you to contact professors (and probably program directors) prior to applying. tell them a bit about your background, interests, why you're interested in their program, and why youd be a great fit, and check out their reactions. you'll be able to tell what programs are a possibility :)

best of luck!
 
Last edited:

Ollie123

10+ Year Member
Feb 19, 2007
4,727
1,199
281
Status
Psychology Student
To me, it sounds as though the taxi may have been helpful for "generating ideas". However, it is not relevant in the sense that it is not in and of itself a "qualification" per se.

I can't speak for admissions committees, but I see the process as something like this. Diversity is good. Someone from a minority group may bring about a unique perspective on topics not normally studied. This is a good thing, and programs love to find these people. However, being from a minority group, in and of itself, does not qualify one to be a psychologist. If you have extensive experience and qualifications, then the fact that you have a unique perspective may give you an added boost. However, unique perspective is not a substitute for qualifications.

I agree with you that creativity is critical, and again, this is a good trait to have. However, from what you described, your research experience could still be "good" or "bad". It is really hard to tell without seeing the end product. The survey could involve developing a series of questionnaires using IRT, incorporating them into a complex SEM model, or it could involve a few questions you tossed up on surveymonkey that you plan on running pearson correlations on.

The lit review/theory paper could be good or bad, I couldn't say until I read it. If it is publishable in a major journal with international readership, fantastic. If it is in "Undergraduate psychology research" then its VERY unlikely to count as significant enough experience to get you into Stanford given the sorts of people you will be up against, many of whom will have equally or MORE unique backgrounds, and much more experience.

I'm not trying to be a downer. This is correctable. I just don't want you to get blindsided if you don't get in this round. Understand that even if you are the "perfect" applicant it will be a dice roll applying to Berkeley and Stanford because there will probably be at least one other "perfect" applicant too. The good news is that it sounds like you are the exact candidate for whom research positions are made for. 2-3 years working full-time in a major laboratory at Stanford and you could be an INCREDIBLY strong applicant, since you would have both a unique background, extensive psychology experience, and a documented commitment to psychology.

The only other thing I'd say, is I REALLY waiver back and forth about finishing the MA program. On the one hand is what I said earlier, you'll have a clinical degree from a professional school - not exactly the best road to a research career. On the other hand...failing to finish a psychology program might be the kiss of death. It might make you look REALLY unfocused, uncommitted, or unstable. Its a tough call, but I would probably err on the side of finishing. I could easily be swayed in the other direction though.
 

blockuvb

10+ Year Member
Mar 1, 2009
23
0
0
Status
Pre-Psychology
Just to give you a taste of my own experience, I applied to schools last year and did not do very well- I applied to 9 schools, only got one interview and was waitlisted but did not get in. Instead of trying to boost my resume, I decided to travel and do all the crazy things I always wanted to do. When I reapplied this year the beginning of my personal statement went something like this:

"Since graduating in May, 2009, I have visited 5 continents, 12 countries, and have been on 33 airplanes, 4 Indian trains, 11 Southeast Asian buses, and too many boats, taxis and motorcycles to count. I have seen the sun rise from the top of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and seen it set over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I have talked to doctors, merchants, street children, taxi drivers, priests, landmine victims, soldiers, survivors of the Khmer Rouge, Viet Cong, a rural Indian Brahman, and countless other people from every walk of life. I have scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, jumped out of an airplane, learned to surf, flown a plane over the Serengeti, and thought about SPSS"

I then took those experiences to show how through all that all I wanted to do was research- particularly on multiculturalism.

This year, I applied to 16 schools and got 6 interviews, 1 acceptance, 1 rejection and 4 wait lists. I can't tell you how many interviews I was in that my personal statement was brought up. Particularly that first sentence. Yes, a lot of the reason I did better was because I matched my interests better and I stressed the things I did and how they lined up with my interests. However, I found that unique experiences gave me a unique perspective and was something I could stress as something that differentiated me as an applicant. I am THRILLED with where I will be going to school. So I would say that a life of adventure and unique experiences doesn't hurt as long as you market your experiences in a way that shows how dedicated you are to the specific program and the path you are headed on.

I hope this helps. Truthfully, I think you will be better for doing all of the unique and crazy things both as an applicant and a student. You just have to show the schools that. .
.
 
Mar 18, 2010
101
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
I have a bit of a diverse background as well.. Although it all falls within the realm of human services.. I graduated with a BA in psychology.. A few years later I began a masters in counseling and then transferred into an MSW program which I graduated from several years ago. At several of my interviews I was asked about the transitioning from different fields.. One interviewer went as far to say that he doubted my commitment to any field of study... I bring this up only to say that diverse backgrounds can be great but they can also be seen as a risk because "you dont seem to know what you want to do". A program is only interested in admitting those that have a solid commitment to the field and will build their reputation as a program that graduates scholar who produce for years to come... If I could go back and redo my interviews I would have thought more extensively about generating a solid answer to some of these aforementioned concerns. Just my two cents for you :)!
 
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Wow, thanks so much for all of the helpful input! Your responses have really helped me clarify, in my mind, the kinds of things I will need to do in order to make this happen in my life. You have all given me such helpful advice and ideas aout how to beef up my chances of getting in this cycle or next.
 
Feb 8, 2010
78
0
0
Portland, ME
Status
Pre-Psychology
Okay, I am going to be honest because I feel like maybe it should be brought up...and because sometimes tough love helps...what exactly is bringing you to psychology? I understand the inner drive to find answers for interesting questions, and I understand that working with diverse groups of people (e.g. taxi patrons) makes psychology feel like a natural fit, but I get the feeling that this work in psychology isn't a life for you, but rather a next step on the adventure that you're making the focus of your life.

I'm just not sure what is driving you to this and makes you sure that you want to commit years for schooling and then work in this field. Despite your interesting past (and, I will also note, most of us are recovered broken children), it doesn't scream of commitment and dedication to psychology/research. And I think that this is a legitimate consideration because if that's the vibe that I'm getting from your story, it's likely that an admissions committee member might feel the same. So, I don't know if I am coming off mean (and I really am not trying to), but sometimes it's a benefit to hear another point of view. And, for the record, I think that your stats are fine, though assuredly your schools are reaches for the best of us. :)

Final point, as an aspiring psychologist, I must point out the glaring subtext of your screen name... ;)
 
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
.....I get the feeling that this work in psychology isn't a life for you, but rather a next step on the adventure that you're making the focus of your life.

I'm just not sure what is driving you to this and makes you sure that you want to commit years for schooling and then work in this field. ...doesn't scream of commitment and dedication to psychology/research....

Final point, as an aspiring psychologist, I must point out the glaring subtext of your screen name... ;)
Hi, :) I guess it didn't occur to me to go into that for this thread, but I can see how it might be a concern. I am really struck by this part of your message "I get the feeling that this work in psychology isn't a life for you, but rather a next step on the adventure that you're making the focus of your life" and In a way I think your assessment is correct, but I might disagree with the conclusion you may be drawing.

The truth is that I do see a PhD in Psychology as a next step on the adventure of my life, and I do see life as an adventure in general. I guess I'm not sure how viewing it that way would preclude my being "serious" about psychology and research.

For my aspirations, a PhD in Psychology gives me the opportunity to live a life of curiosity, creativity, and generativity that is likely hard to replicate outside of the world of academia. I enjoy psychology because it offers an endless supply of puzzles that are likely to be unsolvable but also gives one the opportunity to be a part of doing work that has real impact upon the lives and happiness of people near and far. I also enjoy the fact that, as a newer field of scientific research, there is a great deal of research and discovery that is waiting to be done. Most of all, I know that the psych classes I have and am taking are so fascinating to me, and inspire such interesting threads of curiosity, that I find myself feeling like I would happily pay to be able to learn and ask about this stuff for the rest of my life.

I get the feeling that I'm "supposed" to be approaching this field as a deadly serious and sacred "calling" or something, here. If that is prerequisite for entry into the field I will likely not get very far in my pursuit; I am passionate and excited about this field but I have no desire to take anything so seriously that it is no longer an adventure to enjoy.

As far as the whole "why do I want to go into psychology" question... 1) it's really, really fun to learn about and theorize about and research, 2)I am habitually curious about "why" and "how" people work, 3)I would love to teach at the university level, and 4) I will never run out of subject matter for my associated writing adventures :)

As for the final point, on glaring subtext: When I put the two words together I was amused by the question of what it would mean to be in a dream without corrected vision, it seemed an absurd but amusing thing to think about, to me. My partner, though, pointed out that the most likely meaning for those two words together would be shortsightedness, or not-well-planned aspirations. I am very amused by that glaring subtext and that I failed to consider alternate meanings of the combination-- thanks :)
 
Feb 8, 2010
78
0
0
Portland, ME
Status
Pre-Psychology
I get the feeling that I'm "supposed" to be approaching this field as a deadly serious and sacred "calling" or something, here. If that is prerequisite for entry into the field I will likely not get very far in my pursuit; I am passionate and excited about this field but I have no desire to take anything so seriously that it is no longer an adventure to enjoy.
I just thought it would be helpful to have someone point out the tweaks you could make to the way that you present yourself to admissions people. The impression I get from them is that they want someone who takes this very seriously. And it's not that you don't take it seriously, I am completely sure that you do, but by presenting a sweeping tale it comes across as a bit wide-eyed, you know? For example, it's great that you find theorizing and research really "fun", and that it brings you joy, but I think that might scare admissions people who remember their own agonizing hours checking data input and performing all the other menial tasks of research. When I interviewed at the only school I applied to (yes, yes, I know, but the circumstances were unique), I got the impression that wide-eyed optimism was not at all the angle to adopt to be taken most seriously. A tempered approach would have likely been much, much better.

I also just felt like the writer in you came out to make the non-psychology highlights of your unconventional past glitter, and in the end that may not be in your best interest. Your passion is there, and I think you would be better served in admissions by focusing it and concentrating more on the work and less on the other interesting things that you've done. From what I understand, admissions people don't really care about that stuff nearly as much as your concrete experiences in the field.

It's not that I want to be negative, because I think that you should pursue what you love. I just think it's much more helpful to have the tone of your presentation critiqued here on SDN as opposed to in the trenches of the admissions process. I know that's what I would want. Good luck. :)
 
Last edited:
Apr 1, 2010
8
0
0
Status
Psychology Student
Phishgirl: Thanks for the observation and advice, it is good to know that I may have to temper my self-presentation in app and interview to be taken seriously as an applicant. I guess I still have that youthful idealism that passion and excitement for the field (even the menial tasks!) should be positive qualities of my application. I will need to seriously look to make sure that I am not coming across as looking for "fun" to the detriment of pursuing serious science.

I don't see you as being negative in your response, I just tend to get generally frustrated by a pervasive philosophy that seems to dispute the idea that work can be fun-- not that I think you are doing that. Sorry if my response seemed defensive; I appreciate your input :)